CHOCOLATES have been locked away at a shop in Runcorn.

Goods such as Ferrero Rocher and Lindt Lindor Truffles have been removed from the packaging at the Co-op in the Old Town.

Instead, empty packaging is displayed - labelled as ‘anti-theft boxes’.

Customers must add the empty box to their basket before taking it to the till to be swapped.

It comes after various reports of the Co-op locking away confectionery, such as £1.35 chocolate bars.

Other goods such as coffee, tuna, and steak have been spotted caged in security tags at other stores across the country.

This comes following a rise in shoplifting amid the cost of living crisis.

Earlier this year, Kate McCrae Graham, director of operations at the Co-op, said: “Crime in many communities is increasing, and it is known that repeat and prolific offenders and, local organised criminal gangs are driving serious incidents of brazen and violent theft in stores.

“It is an ongoing challenge for all retailers, and often a flashpoint for the unacceptable attacks and abuse towards my colleagues.

“Co-op continues to invest significantly in keeping colleagues and stores safe. This includes the latest CCTV; body-worn cameras, undercover guarding and, extending our use of dummy - anti-theft - display cases to deter the incidents of ‘bulk-shoplifting’ or, ‘looting’, as it has been described.

“This isn't a victim-less crime, as my store colleagues who have been verbally abused and had knives and syringes pulled on them can vouch for, but it is seemingly a consequence-less crime.

“While we are doing all we can, we also need the police to play their part as too often forces fail to respond to desperate calls by our store teams and criminals operate in communities without any fear of consequences.”